A broader topic than some would think. This includes not only traditional wills, but also trust planning, death tax planning, and the use of other essential documents such as powers of attorney and health care directives. Importantly the interaction of all of these documents, and the issues that drive them are given the proper attention.
A proper estate plan will consider the client(s) as a whole. Family dynamics and special needs of beneficiaries need to be anticipated and discussed fully. An estate plan generally rests on three pillars: a will/trust or both documents; a general durable power of attorney and a health care power of attorney with the use of a “living will” or advance directive as it is called in New Jersey. Without considering and implementing these three pillars, your estate plan is incomplete.
Succession planning for those in a closely held or family business need to be addressed so that the future of the business can be assured, not only from a financial point of view but with attention paid to younger generations and continuity.
While no one wishes their estate to be the subject of litigation after his or her death, sometimes the specter is a very real possibility. Those issues also need to be honestly addressed at the time of drafting so that the possibility is limited as much as possible.
A general durable power of attorney is a document that gives to another individual or entity (“Agent”) the right to act on behalf of the principal in the present as well as if the principal becomes incapacitated. Failure to put a properly drawn document in place leaves your family with the expensive alternative of a guardianship in the event you become disabled and have not appointed an Agent to act in your place.
Likewise, a health care power of attorney will authorize an individual to make general medical decisions for you if you are not mentally able to do so. This document may also contain an “advance directive,” sometimes called a “living will,” if and under what medical circumstances you wish treatment to be terminated or withdrawn. This will give certainty to your family and medical providers or your wishes so that there is no conflict or misunderstanding.